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Transport (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th October 2019.

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Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The Transport (Scotland) Bill is an ambitious and broad piece of legislation to develop cleaner, smarter and more accessible transport networks and systems. Its provisions include measures to improve bus patronage and air quality in our towns and cities, to increase the safety and efficiency of road works and to address antisocial parking. They also make some necessary technical improvements in quite specific areas. For example, they ensure that there will be more appropriate financial flexibility and governance arrangements for some public bodies. In addition, the Government’s transport strategy amendments that were agreed to yesterday help to frame the bill around a wider set of outcomes. That builds on the measures in the bill to help Scotland to reduce emissions and to play its part in addressing the global climate emergency.

The bill received a lot of attention at stage 2. More than 400 amendments were considered by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Given that the bill’s contents are not only wide ranging and aspirational, but quite technical and complex in some areas, overseeing such scrutiny is no mean feat. I thank the committee and its clerks for their work and the long hours on stage 2 before the summer recess. I thank the stakeholders and individuals who submitted evidence at stage 1 and who were engaged in the pre-consultation process that shaped the bill. I also thank my bill team for their outstanding work over a number of months to ensure that the bill was prepared properly for presentation to the Government and for consideration at committee and in the chamber.

The Government’s vision is for Scotland to have the cleanest air in Europe. The low-emission zone provisions in the bill are a key pillar of our commitment to improving air quality as quickly as possible. LEZs have the potential to interact with a host of other transport issues, such as congestion, active travel and encouraging the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles. We are working closely with local authorities to put in place low-emission zones in Scotland’s four largest cities by 2020.

A range of views have been expressed on LEZs in Parliament. Many of those are to do with matters that will be addressed in regulations at a later date rather than in the bill. I am confident that, should Parliament see fit to pass the bill this evening, the constructive dialogue that we have had through stages 1, 2 and 3 will continue, as I am keen for that to help to shape the regulations.

The draft national transport strategy clearly states that buses are a key part of the sustainable public transport system in helping to address the climate emergency. The bill offers an ambitious new model for improving bus services and will ensure that there will be sustainable bus networks across Scotland.

Parliament has now agreed measures that will enable local transport authorities to operate their own public passenger transport services, should they choose to do so. We will work with local transport authorities, the Competition and Markets Authority and others to develop clear guidance on the matter. Moreover, the bill will improve the information on the bus services that are available to passengers, helping them to plan their journeys; it will also accelerate the implementation of smart ticketing across Scotland.

The prohibitions on pavement parking and double parking will help to ensure that our pavements and roads are accessible for all, particularly those with mobility considerations. I particularly welcome the cross-party approach that we have had on parking reforms, and I believe that we have struck the right balance in the bill to tackle that issue.

The Green Party’s amendments on workplace parking levies have generated considerable debate. The measures give a discretionary power to local authorities—I emphasise that it is a power, not a duty. Such schemes can help to reduce congestion and tackle emissions by influencing travel behaviour, and they have the potential to be a valuable tool in delivering local measures to address the global climate emergency and tackle climate change.

The bill’s provisions on road works will enhance our current framework and improve quality, safety and performance. The bill also gives flexibility to regional transport partnerships and the Scottish Canals Board.

For all those reasons, I urge members across the chamber to support the bill this evening.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Transport (Scotland) Bill be passed.